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[Page 189]

Before the Final Hour

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan

During the August days of 1943, a time of the extermination of the last Jews in Glubokie , after the burning of the Ghetto, the murderers went through of the courtyards and gardens of the former Ghetto, looking for hidden Jews. They knew that there were still some Jews who were hiding somewhere in underground bunkers. It was for these bunkers they searched now.

In the spring of 1943, most of the Jews in Glubokie prepared for themselves pits in which to hide during the impending slaughter. they had made some of these hideouts in the gardens near their homes,

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and planted potatoes above them in order to camouflage the hiding place. David Munboz had also prepared near his house on Lomzshe Street such a bunker, with potatoes growing over it.

As was mentioned, The Germans and the local Police, walked through the gardens, searching all of the courtyards and gardens with mowers and choppers. They cut down all of the grass and plants. They also came to Lomzshe Street to the garden of David Munboz. While cutting the green tops of the potatoes in the garden they discovered a tube, which was exposed above the ground from the underground hiding place in order to provide air. Seeing the tube, the hangmen threw grenades at the spot, and killed the Jews in that hiding place. Moshe Disvitsky and his mother, Groyne, David Munboz and his wife, the family of Chaim-Hirsh Gilevitsh, Moshe Soloveitshik and his son, Tuviah, the electrical technician, Pulke Metler, the gaiter maker, Israel-Abraham Kliyupt, his wife Tzile and three daughters, all of them perished. From that bunker there survived only two nieces of David Munboz. Their clothing were completely riddled with bullet holes, and their faces completely unrecognizable.

Tzilye Kiupt, was not dead yet. She was lying there badly wounded. The survivors wanted to remove the dress from her body. But she wouldn't let them. At night they went out of the death pit almost naked. They crawled on all fours in the grass. By a miracle they managed to leave the city unnoticed. They went in the direction of the Barok Forest; going past the cemetery the Germans noticed them and fired mortars at them. The girls fell to the ground and lay among the corpses. The Germans came to search for them among the corpses. One German took one of them by the hand, looked at her with a flashlight pointed at her face, but didn't discern any signs of life in her, and left her lying there…

The girls got up and walked further after the Germans left. On the way they met the 9 year old boy, Nachurn Berkan (the son of Mashke Berkan), leaning against a tree. He was wounded in his private parts. The girls tore a piece of cloth from their torn dresses and bandaged him. Before dawn they managed to drag themselves up to the Barok Forest. From afar they saw the Germans leading a group of about 200 Jews - men, women, old people and children. The girls hid themselves in the bushes, not far from the pit to which the Jews were being led, they heard the shots. They watched the Germans grabb children by their feet, swing their heads against a tree and threw them into the pit.

Afterwards the Germans threw a few grenades into the pit. When the Germans left the pit, the girls went deeper into the forest

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and in a short time came upon a Partisan unit, in which they found some other Glubokie survivors of the slaughter.

The Glubokie Jewish community, which florished over hundreds of years, was completely annihilated, completely wiped out…We, the writers of these bloody pages, remained safe., after the murder of our mother on the 4th of Tammuz, 5702 (see The Slaughter of 2500 Jews in Gluboke). After the cutting down of the Ghetto in the summer of 1942, we were thrown from one place to another, until a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, we were taken into a house on Polne Street, near the perimeter of the Ghetto.

Like so many other Jews, we prepared a pit - a sort of “dugout”. The dugout was made in partnership with two other families: Yosl Kozshdans' family of Glubokie and Geidenzon from Krulevshchizna.

During the last months before the liquidation of the Ghetto, we heard about the Partisan organization. We considered fleeing into the forest, but the ghetto was strictly guarded on all sides. We were very disheartened by the recurring incidents in the Ghetto,. We wanted despertly to flee but didn't know where and how to go, not having anyone who would stretch out a hand to us. And so, we remained where we were until the liquidation of Glubokie.

Us four and the two abovementioned families, altogether 11 souls, went into the dugout on Friday, the 19th of August, in the morning. In the confusion we forgot to -take the bread, which had been prepared in advance. We did not forget to take a barrel of water and also a first aid kit. Our dugout; which led via an exit to the garden, had been constructed in a very primitive fashion. We had done the digging during the winter months. The roof support was weak, and in a short while, the earth fell in various places, so that we could see out into the street. The garden, and also the top of the dugout were overgrown with grass, so that the holes that had been made by the falling 'earth, could be noticed only if one looked very carefully…

Through a camouflaged opening we entered the dugout. It was terribly cramped in the dugout. We sat so pressed together that we couldn't even turn. Through the holes we heard the cries of the Jews who had been caught, the shooting, we heard a policeman who

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caught a woman and children, requesting money from her and then taunting her about how little money she had,. He then took them to a German, who shot them on the spot. Rhoda, the sister of Shmuel Nissan Gelman, was wounded,. We heard how she screamed with inhuman strength, that they should shoot her. Her relatives quieted her, so that the hangmen wouldn't hear her screams. She just couldn't calm herself down…

In the afternoon we heard planes which flew low all over the Ghetto , and we couldn't understand what this signified. Later we smelled a distinct odor in the dugout. We knew that the Ghetto was aflame…Our house stood apart from the surrounding houses and did not catch fire.

In the evening we heard how the Germans entered our house. “Jews, out, out!” they carried on shouting. When they finally left the house they were laughing, they were content, they were talking out loud among themselves , they were full with triumph… there flowed into the dugout a warmth and it became light, about a moment later - our house was burning like a candle. Burning cinders began to fall into our dugout. It seemed as if the “roof” of our “dugout” would catch fire any minute. Fortunately, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction and the smoke did not choke us. The beams of the “roof” began to smoke, and with our hands we dug up the earth and put out the fire. In this way we fought the firefor a few hours without pause. The hole through which we had entered the dugout, opened completely, and we could see passing Germans and Police. Later we were able to somewhat disguise the hole from the inside.

The house of Kalman Moshe Hoichman burned some meters away from us. In the dugout under that house, dodens of people were burned alive , among whom were Hoichman's wife and four of their children. He and a 17 year old daughter, crawled into our “dugout on on Shabbat, the 21st of August, before dawn, they were badly burned. During their crawling to us, we thought that it was the murderers crawling. After they crawled in, there developed a large hole, and with our hands, we dug earth with which to plug it up. It became so crowded that we were

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actually sitting on one another's heads. It was impossible to move a limb. K. M. Hoichman suffered greatly from his burns, but he exerted great self control arid kept quiet. His daughter, on the other hand, who seemed to be even more seriously hurt than he was, could not keep herself calm. She moaned out loud, or snored loudly in her sleep. We were afraid that her snoring would give away our hiding place to the enemy.

The Germans and Police patrolled our streets during that Shabbat day, they kept tapping around and searching. We could hear them conversing among themselves, with their bayonets they “tapped” the earth. For some reason, it appears, they became suspicious of our hiding place. At about 2:00 in the afternoon, a few Germans came over to our dugout and listened, tapped the earth near the hole which had been formed by the falling earth, and had gotten even bigger with the coming of Kalman-Moshe and his daughter. The Germans, with their bayonets tapped on the dugout; the earth poured down on our heads… With the German Patrol, there was also a baker, by the name of Kolye, who, until the formation of the Ghetto, had lived in the region. (We don't know his family). As it appears, the Germans had brought him along as an “expert”, to search for hidden Jews. From their talk it was obvious that they had suspected our “dugout”. But because of the caving in and overgrowth they could not imagine that people would be sitting inside. They asked Kolye about this dugout, and how come it was there. We heard Kolye tell them that in the burnt out house (our house) his brother-in-law, Alexander, had lived, and that he knows for sure that Alexander had a dugout for potatoes. About the holes, Kolye told them that they had been dug by cats… He declared emphatically: “The holes were dug by cats!”. The Germans stood, thought a bit, and left.

Kolye, the baker, had obviously known that we were hidden there, and purposely wanted to save us. There had never been a dugout in that spot, and the “potato-dugout” was a figment of his imagination… We are indebted to him and consider it our obligation to mention him favorably because if he had not at that moment, turned his tongue “aside” a bit, we would have certainly fallen into the hands of the Germans.

Approximately during sunset, Germans came to our dugout to inspect the premises again … We heard how one of the Germans expressed his opinion and stated that a grenade should be thrown. Fortunately they did not

[Page 194]

do it at that moment. But for us it became clear that we could no longer remain in that place… To crawl out of that dugout in the light was impossible. With each moment we imagined that our “dugout” would be blown up. Such “waiting” we endured until midnight.

That midnight, between Saturday and Sunday, we crawled out of the hole in the dugout. 13 souls, in great fear,, left one by one,. We took nothing with us, except for a kit of medicines, which the wife of M. Rayak, as a doctor, had brought into the dugout and considered it an object which one could not do without on such a dreadful journey.

Before our eyes there appeared an awful sight after crawling out of the dugout. The Ghetto was burning. The air was filled with smoke. From afar we saw vehicles filled with Germans riding in circles. You could hear very furious voices. With flashlights they would light up the area around themselves and searched… shooting of guns, mortars, and also the explosions of bombs could be heard. The groans of the wounded, whom the heartless ones hadn't killed were heard from all directions. They left them to suffer terrible tortures, and struggle until they died on their on… All around there were dismembered, burned corpses with torn limbs. You couldn't move without being noticed. One had to crawl in the grass. We became disoriented and didn't know where we were… This was the moment and place which later led to our greatest misfortune. We became separated due to our disorientation, and lost one another. One of us, Tzvi, remained alone, and Michael. his wife and baby, remained with the others, those with whom they had left the “dugout.” To pause to think too long, couldn't be done. The Angel of Death hovered over every step we took, and carried with him, death…

I, (Tzvi) headed in the direction of Vilna Street. The fence was burned down and I left the Ghetto… Also my brother, Michael, and the others came through the same way later. But we didn't know about each other. The twenty minutes that Michael spent near the dugout, looking for me, proved fatal for us - this time became the most frightful misfortune that would hunt us for the rest of our lives.

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Going out of the Ghetto through the burned fence on Vilna Street near Nathan Gitelzon's courtyard, and leaving the city at 5:00 A. M. when It was already light, we (Michael, his wife and child and the others) wanted to cross the tracks that led to Dunilovitz 2 kilometers from the city. As soon as we came up on the tracks, we were overtaken by two vehicles filled with Germans, with the spy Vitvitzki (Tzirkovetz) at the head. We already wrote about him in a separate chapter. They stopped their vehicles, and attacked us with all of their destructive weapons. Over our heads there poured the bullets of handguns, automatic weapons and machine guns from every direction…

Confused, we ran in every direction. I, Michael, threw off my shirt, jumped off the tracks, and rolled myself into a meadow with high grass. I was joined by Yosl Kazshdan, the butcher, one of the Gadenson sisters and Kalman-Moshe Hoichman. We crawled on all fours and entered a deep canal. The Germans shot at us, the bullets whined from all directions and as it seems.M. Hoichman was hit, because we later heard that he was not to be found among the survivors. My closest were not with me. We were somehow separated. I had parted from my dear wife, Helena (Louise) and my dearest son Aaron-Yitzhak, who was 8 years and four months old (having been born on the 2nd of the intermediate days of Passover, 5695). I had parted from my dearest and most precious, who had taken with them the nicest and best of my life, they have my soul… The beloved and the most pleasant left me forever - no swabs can ever dry my eyes, no word can ever comfort my soul…

We Wander Aimlessly and Come to the Partisans

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan

For about 3 hours we lay in the canal and did not move from the spot. The shooting finally concluded, and we heard the German vehicles leaving the area. We crawled out of the canal and left the meadow. We ascended to a small hill and sat in a sparingly bushed area. The Germans rode around in their vehicles along all the roads and by-ways and fired their weapons incessantly. I sat there in a state of a complete daze.

I did not know what had happened to my wife and child - I could not believe that they were gone.

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We didn't know what had happened to all of those, who had been with us. Yosl Kazshdan had noticed that his wife had stopped a bullet on the way and lay in the spot she fell. As I learned later, my wife had also been shot on the way and my son wanted to hide, but found no hiding place. H. Gidenson told me after the liberation (I met him in Lodz) that my child ran behind him, when escaping the German. He turned from him at one point out of fear that they would both fall into German hands.

Until it became dark, we sat in the bushes. We wanted to go back to the place where misfortune had overtaken us, in order to find out something about what had happened to our relatives. But this was impossible, because from the rockets which the Germans were firing, we could see that they had patrols in every nook and cranny. We had to abandon our place and go off in a different direction. Of the 12 people who had come out of our dugout, two lonesome orphans were left - we were drifting, two desolated shadows, in the sinister, evil world.

We went in the direction of Krulevishtzina. We constantly had to change our route, the Germans fired rockets at us from all directions. Even so we were able to distance ourselves from Glubokie before nightfall. I was besides myself, I didn't believe that any of my relatives were still alive, and life had lost all interest for me. , I dragged myself behind Kazshdan, mechanically. He knew the area well. Several times along the way, we noticed cars, and Kazshdan would run to hide, with me pursuing him. But I was completely indifferent when a Ge rmran patrol fired rockets and shot at us. I was only frightened at the thought of falling alive into the hands of the Germans.

We hid in thick bushes when day began to dawn. We sat there all day. A heavy rain fell and we became soaking wet. But who would care at that time for such a thing. We were only frightened of being caught alive. We would tremble at the sound of a bird, a falling leaf, which we imagined to be a person who right notice us. Men became for us the greatest terror.

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We went again on our way in the evening. Kazshdan had Christian acquaintances in most of the villages in the area. In a village we arrived, he knocked on the door of one of his acquaintances, and a Christian acquaintance carried out a piece of bread for him. But the Christian acquaintance was afraid to speak to him and only wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible. We wandered like this for several days - by day we would hide in the woods or in the bushes, and by night we would travel. We came near the Partisan zone in this way. On the way, we found out that the Germans would not enter the Partisan zone, since they were afraid to show themselves there. We really did not rush in our traveling, because after what had happened to us, we were completely indifferent to life.

We arrived at the village of Yuziche, some twenty or more kilometers from Glubokie, a week later. There we found some of the escapees from the Glubokie slaughter : Kalman Rabinovitsh, Ruvke Kotz, Zalman Rappaport, Benjamin Gitelzon, his wife and little daughter, Abraham Shub, Eli Podnos, Rashe Weiman, Pipik the shoemakers 8 year old son, one of the Gidenson sisters, who had been in the dugout with us, Mrs. Kurak with a young daughter, who was seriously wounded, Arke Birzsn, Itshke Mind and a few others. Near the village of Yuziche there was a small Partisan group, and a few of the escapees, who had arrived armed, immediately joined the group. All were filled with a spirit of revenge towards the murderers who spilled so much innocent blood. This became their only reason for living.

Feeling a bit calmer from the German dangers, we remained here for a few days. We couldn't come back to our old selves. I would go about completely traumatized, as if after a dark terrible nightmare, from which one would not be freed for eternity

Suddenly “courier” from the Partisans came running toward us. They told us that a large German unit was approaching Yuziche, and was intent upon blockading the Partisan zone. The group immediately left the village. They went off in different directions. I, together with Yosl Kazshdan, the Gidenson woman, Mina from Dolhinov (a relative of Chaim-Leib Shulheifer) went in the direction of the Miadyaler region, where there was a strong Partisan Brigade. We were also accompanied by Leibl Chasash of Dunilovitz. We would travel only by night. By day we used to hide either in the forest or the bushes.

We came to the village of Misouni, not far from Miadyal, after about 5 days.

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There we met Shalom Yungelson and Chaya Zinger, with her son, they had fled from Glubokie before the slaughter. In Misouni there was a Partisan group, which had arrived from Moscow by plane. The Commandant of the group engaged me in conversation, saw how broken up and confused I was, and requested that I write up the experiences that we had gone through. He gave me paper, pen and ink, and I began to write. This assignment lent some meaning to my days and instilled in me a desire to remain alive, I became engrossed in the task. The memories, though, did not give me any peace of mind. The pains became more severe with each passing hour and I couldn't exert any self control. Also the writing did not calm me. I just couldn't find a place for myself.

There were different Partisan units around the village of Misouni , and various groups would often cross the village. A unit of Tshapaiev's regiment of Voroshilov's Brigade, under the command of our former student, Itshke Blatt drove through Misouni a few days after my arrival here,. Ytzhak Blatt , who was the Commandant of the regiment. gave me a letter from my brother Tzvi and told me that he was coming for me and in a few days would arrive here. This news was as if it had fallen upon me from heaven. I burst out crying. Blatt calmed me down. He told me that the general situation was a critical one. The Germans are preparing a strong offensive against the Partisans and we must be prepared for anything. I recovered completely and awaited the coming of my brother. Not only the hours dragged for me, but even the minutes seemed endless. A few days later I was told that my brother had arrived on the “High island” and is preparing to come to Misouni to be with me. The Island was about 5 kilometers from Misouni., I decided to go to him. Eli Gordon and his family as well as some other inhabitants of Glubokie were on the “High Island. They brought me to my brother. He was dressed in tattered clothing, was terribly pale and unshaven, and so changed, that it was difficult for me to recognize him. He had become gray, and his face wore such a sad expression, one that I had never seen on anyone's face before. When I approached him, he stood near a booth, reciting the “silent prayer”. It was morning. When he finished, we embraced and kissed. It seemed to me that he was silently uttering the “she'echeyanu” prayer of gratitude for my being there. He did not ask me a single question. He already knew

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that my wife and child were no longer with me, and what had happened to them, so he didn't ask. The anguish and sorrow which plagued both of our hearts, rendered the two of us speechless.


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